GMPA

Great British Debt Trap

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We were recently contacted by Stephen Pennells from the Jubilee Debt Campaign and we invited him to write for the newsletter to tell us more.

Ending the Great British Debt Trap
By Stephen Pennells, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Manchester

There are many causes of household poverty but one of them is the debt trap that faces people who don’t have the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ or savings to fall back on and find themselves forced to borrow at the most expensive rates when a crisis occurs.   This leads to another crisis.    Decent and dependable work, credit unions, and responsible debt counselling are needed, but so also are structural changes.

Although Wonga is in administration, they still take payments, while others eagerly pick up their business. Moreover, regulation of credit cards, overdrafts, doorstep lending, rent-to-own and other businesses remains light, both in terms of interest rates and conditions.

People who can’t shop around may pay considerably more for goods when they buy from BrightHouse or are lured by the perceived prospect of savings, into opening interest-charging accounts with high street stores.

Jubilee Debt Campaign, campaigning with others in the ‘End the Debt Trap Campaign’, demands an end to predatory and exploitative lending, a write-off of personal debt due to irresponsible lending and deep structural economic injustice, and changes in economic policy so that people don’t need to rely on borrowing to make ends meet.

Several Manchester councillors and local MPs (Andrew Gwynne, Mike Kane, Afzal Khan and Jeff Smith) have supported the campaign, as has the Dean of Manchester.

We’re calling on the Chancellor to end rip-off lending by capping interest rates and charges for loans, credit cards, overdrafts, rent-to-own and doorstep lending; and set out how the goverment plans to help families who are stuck in the debt trap.

JDC is a small NGO with a dedicated but overworked staff in London.  To change mindsets and break the chains of domestic debt snaring over 18% of Greater Mancunians, the campaign needs you not only to sign, but also to take it to family and friends, workmates, union and party meetings, religious congregations and community centers.  You can join on our website

Politicians and leaders need to be encouraged to raise their voices and reminded to keep on doing so.   JDC will gladly provide materials such as cards and petition forms or help with this and can be contacted by email or on 0207 324 4722.

 

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Salford Building in Warmth

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by Aneaka Kellay, Carbon Co-op

Carbon Co-op launched a video to coincide with Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2019, showcasing Salford Building In Warmth, a partnership project with charity National Energy Action (NEA), Helping Hands and Salford Council that brings together energy experts, local handy people and neighbours to tackle fuel poverty.

With effects on health, education and employability, fuel poverty affects a growing number of people, with a staggering 15% of households in the Broughton area of Salford classified as fuel poor (figures taken from the Salford City Council – Affordable Warmth, Strategic Action Plan – 2018/2021).

As part of Salford Building In Warmth, Carbon Co-op bought in Energy Consultant Diane Hubbard to conduct airtightness testing on four energy champions’ homes, highlighting the coldest, most draughty areas. The tests enabled local property maintenance and repairs service Helping Hands to make targeted and affordable improvements to homes with follow up airtightness tests used to investigate quality and impact.

Megan, one of the Energy Champions said “Having those problems resolved, it’s a lot cosier. I’ve told almost everyone I’ve met because it’s been so exciting, I feel quite evangelical about the benefits, just getting small things done makes a difference

Diane Hubbard, Energy Consultant, Green Footsteps said “It is vital that those undertaking energy efficiency home improvements for vulnerable householders are trained to undertake work to the highest standard. Without this training they not only risk their work not achieving the results they want, but more importantly they can put those living in homes at risk. It’s great to see community initiatives in Salford doing things differently.”

As Aneaka Kellay, Carbon Co-op said “It’s been great to work with Helping Hands, Diane Hubbard and the Community Champions in Salford. We’ve shown that by bringing communities and expertise together, we can make a difference.”

Rebecca Long Bailey MP said “I’m very pleased to see the initiatives Carbon Co-op, other Salford social enterprises and community energy groups are taking to find ways to tackle this real issue, and give people safer and warmer homes .”

Read more about Salford Building In Warmth  here

 

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Understanding Food Poverty

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Understanding Food Poverty and the Transitional Behaviour of Vulnerable Individuals

On Thursday April 25th, 2019 from 3.30 – 7pm at Media City UK, University of Salford M50 2HE

As almost a fifth of the UK population live in poverty and emergency food access is increasing year-on-year, our event reports on the temporal experience of austerity and food access exclusion in the Greater Manchester and city of Birmingham regions with the purpose of helping vulnerable individuals to navigate their way out of food poverty.

This event is hosted by SHUSU at the University of Salford, together with Huddersfield Business School and Birmingham Business School. Sponsored by British Academy/Leverhulme, it aims to bring together stakeholders across business, government, charities, academia and society to discuss key questions around food poverty and poverty in general.

In addition to disseminating their key findings and policy summaries from local government, the event features an open Q&A panel with leading thinkers from Greater Manchester Poverty Action, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Birmingham Food Council and Salford City Council.

GMPA Co-Director Tom Skinner, who will be speaking at the event, commented “The Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester is centred around the need to address the underling causes of food poverty at the personal as well as societal level. This event is important as it will discuss and develop the evidence base for helping people to navigate their way out of food poverty.”

Conference Chairs: Prof. Morven McEachern; Dr Caroline Moraes; Prof. Lisa Scullion; and Dr Andrea Gibbons.

Refreshments are provided on arrival and midway through the event.

The event is free to attend but pre-registration is compulsory via Eventbrite.

 

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Making employment work for everyone

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By Andy Burnham , Mayor of Greater Manchester

For many people, modern work isn’t working.

In an increasingly insecure UK labour market, poverty rates have risen for every type of working family and one in eight workers nationally is now in poverty.

Our Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, launched earlier this year, found that wages have fallen by 6.6% in real terms between 2006 and 2016 for the average worker in the city-region, in a labour market which has seen a rise in unstable and low paid work.

This can’t be right. We need to be offering employees secure, fulfilling and well-paid work that prevents them from falling into poverty in the first place, and that means that our businesses can grow and succeed based on the skills and engagement of their staff.

That’s why in Greater Manchester we’re doing things differently, working with employers and employees in all sectors, trade unions, business representative organisations and other key stakeholders to develop a Good Employment Charter.

Through two consultations and a broader co-design process involving GM Poverty Action and others we’ve developed a list of seven employment characteristics which define good employment:

  • Security of work
  • Flexible work
  • Payment of a real living wage
  • Excellent people management
  • A productive & healthy workplace
  • Excellent recruitment practices and progression
  • Workplace engagement and voice

We want to bring employers with us on a journey towards best practice in each of these fields, demonstrating the positive impact that better employment standards can have on employee welfare and business performance alike. The Charter will therefore have a tiered approach to help support and encourage employers to share excellent practice, access support to progress to higher standards, and help them become more successful as a result.

Through our co-design process and as we move into the implementation of the Charter, we’re building a coalition of organisations committed to improving employment practice and offering fair conditions for their workers.

In this way, Charter members will be at the heart of the movement, demonstrating its values and spreading its influence and positive impacts to other employers in Greater Manchester – advocating membership amongst their networks and supply chains.

Our Charter model has now been agreed by the Combined Authority and, working with partners, we are beginning the process of putting the Charter into action. Already, it has been highlighted by the recent Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review as an important element in increasing economic growth and pay in the city-region.

I’d like to thank GM Poverty Action for the help and advice they have provided throughout the Charter’s design. I believe the model we have created together can and will make a real difference for people in Greater Manchester.

More information is available on the GMCA website

You can read GMPA’s responses to the Good Employment Carter consultation here

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Salford: No-one left behind

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by Jonathan Stancombe

From council tax to cutting the cost of funerals, from boosting benefits to decent pay, Salford City Council is fighting poverty on many fronts.

In 2017, using local people’s first-hand experience and knowledge of areas to address, the council launched No-one Left Behind to tackle poverty in the city.

The campaign won national recognition in the Municipal Journal Awards last June and praise from the Money Advice Service but City Mayor Paul Dennett says there’s no room for complacency.

“I’m delighted at what we have achieved and the number of people we have helped, especially in the face of savage government funding cuts which has taken 53% of central government funding from our budget to date with austerity having no end in sight” he said.

“The challenges just keep on coming – particularly with the rollout of Universal Credit. Salford Citizen’s Advice has seen a 114% increase in the number of people coming forward for help and expect that to continue. When you think that last year they helped nearly 21,000 people you begin to appreciate the sheer scale of the problem.

“The council’s welfare rights and debt advice service helped more than 3,200 people this year to claim an extra £4.8 million in benefits they are entitled to and nearly 4,000 people have used our new BetterOff service which checks benefits and signposts them to job opportunities and childcare provision in the city. We only launched the website and face to face sessions last summer.

“We’ve helped over 25,000 people on low incomes by keeping the council tax reduction scheme at its current level for four years and helped more than 600 householders to reduce their energy costs.

“It’s no wonder that the United Nations, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the End Child Poverty campaign say that poverty is getting worse in the UK – the world’s fifth largest economy. It really is a disgrace.”

Last year new initiatives included tackling school summer holiday hunger, helping  more than 500 children and a new low-cost funeral service which cuts the average cost of a burial or cremation by 39%.

Even the city’s refuse collectors chipped in and made Christmas much more enjoyable for hundreds of local families than they might have expected. “They asked residents to put out a gift with their bins in December so we could pass it on to local charities and families. Salford people responded magnificently and donated more than 5,000 gifts worth an estimated £25,000 which went to local charities and families,” said Mayor Dennett.

While tackling poverty is a key priority preventing people from falling into difficulties in the first place is vital and City Mayor Paul Dennett is clear how that can be done. “Decent jobs with decent pay and terms and conditions of employment are crucial,” he said.

Panel Dennett Salford City Mayor for GM Poverty Action

Paul Dennett

“Salford is the fastest growing economy in Greater Manchester with unprecedented levels of investment and opportunities for local people. TalkTalk recently announced plans to move its headquarters from London to Salford. MediaCityUK is now the biggest digital hub outside London with education facilities on site to train the next generation. These are just some of our many success stories.

“All this, plus more and more businesses and organisations committed to following the council’s lead in paying the ‘real’ Living Wage (as set by the Living Wage Foundation) and improving working conditions creates real opportunities for local people. Salford City council is doing all it can to ensure as many people as possible benefit from what’s happening in our city.

“There’s no quick fix, no magic bullet but Salford’s spirit, strong partnerships, and sheer determination means we can and will do all we can to create a better and fairer Salford for all.”

See the full report here

 

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Underlying Causes of Food Poverty

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Addressing the underlying causes of food poverty
By Dr Mags Adams

Dr Mags Adams is Senior Research Co-ordinator at UCLAN’s Institute of Citizenship, Society and Change. She chaired one of the sub-groups of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, which recommended actions for the Food Poverty Action Plan to address the underlying causes of food poverty. You can read the recommended actions, all of which were included in the Action Plan, and discuss them, here.

Food insecurity in the UK is on the rise as evidenced by the increased use of food banks across the country1 and the increasing number of deaths from malnutrition  (up by more than 30% between 2007 and 20162). At a time when Greater Manchester is performing well economically in terms of job creation and private sector business growth, low pay and low skills mean many people are not benefiting from the region’s success ; median full-time wages are £50 per week lower in Greater Manchester (£494) than they are nationally (£545), and 23% of workers are paid below the voluntary Living Wage3. Universal credit was piloted in Tameside in Greater Manchester before being rolled out to Oldham and further afield. It replaced six means tested benefits with one single payment. It has been highly criticised due to effects on housing rights, evictions and homelessness4. In October 2017 it was reported that 80% of claimants in some housing associations had fallen behind with rent because of delays in receiving their payments5. This new benefit has an inbuilt six-week delay in receiving payments, allegedly to mirror being paid monthly in the workplace (However, it should be noted than many of those earning under £10,000 per annum are actually paid weekly6). In reality delays of ten and twelve weeks are not uncommon before payments are received7.

Many additional factors are also at play in determining why people experience food poverty. For example, food prices fluctuate, the UK is a net importer of food8 and the fall in the pound since the EU referendum has pushed the cost of living upwards9. Furthermore, housing prices are disproportionately higher than in other European countries.

Child poverty in Manchester is one of the highest rates by local authority area; 35.5% of children under 16 live in poverty with 69.4% of them living in workless households10. Many people living in poverty are in part-time and low paid work.

Dr Mags Adams article for GM Poverty Action

Dr Mags Adams

By addressing the underlying causes of food poverty, we can ensure that everyone in Greater Manchester is food secure and has ‘adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life’11. Many of the problems associated with food poverty, including hunger and malnutrition, are problems caused by poverty. Addressing this will mean that households have a real living wage for a decent quality of life, that homelessness becomes a thing of the past, that children can focus on their education rather than their hunger, and that everyone has an affordable place to live.

Mags is seeking people to apply for a fully-funded PhD on the topic of “Local food systems and local economic democracy: a framework for delivering food security?” Full details here

1 Bulman, M. (2018, 24 April). Food bank use in UK reaches highest rate on record as benefits fail to cover basic costs. Independent. Available here

2 British Specialist Nutrition Association (2018). Forgotten not Fixed: A Blueprint to Tackle  the Increasing Burden of Malnutrition in England. Available here

3 Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2017). 100-day countdown: Greater Manchester mayor must get to grips with region’s in-work poverty problem.  Available here

4 Greater Manchester Law Centre (2017). “We demand: no evictions as a result of Universal Credit delays” says GMLC, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Acorn tenants’ union and others. Available here

5 Williams, J. (2017, 19 Oct). Families are ‘being made homeless’ by Universal Credit – but its rollout will continue. Available here

6 Institute for Government (2017). The problems with Universal Credit. Available here

7 See Institute for Government (2017) above.

8 Gov.UK (2017). Food Statistics in your pocket 2017 – Global and UK supply. Available here

9 Jackson, G. (2017, 14 Nov). UK food prices rise at fastest rate in four years. Financial Times. Available here

10 Manchester City Council (2017). Manchester City Council Report for Resolution Manchester Family Poverty Strategy 2017-2022. Available here

11 World Food Programme (2018). What is food security? Available here

 

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Mental Health & UC

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Investigating Claimant Experiences
By Joe Pardoe, PhD Student at the University of Salford

Research has shown that recent changes to the benefits system, especially the roll-out of Universal Credit, have profoundly impacted the UK’s poorest communities. This has been found to partly account for the massive increase in national rates of poverty, particularly child poverty. The link between poverty and health has long been established; a region with a high rate of poverty tends to correspond with a lower standard of general health and mental health.

My study is interested in how people who live within an area with a relatively high rate of poverty, such as Greater Manchester, may experience changes to their mental health throughout their engagement with the benefits system and receipt of Universal Credit. Claimants who are vulnerable to mental health related issues and mental health conditions, such as those who receive additional disability benefits like PIP, often see their need for support intensified throughout the process of engagement with the benefits system. What is less well known is, how those without pre-existing mental health conditions may experience changes to their mental health throughout the process of claiming.

Prior research has identified various aspects of claiming that may impact upon mental health, such as being subject to the Work Capability Assessment and having to deal with the rigors of meeting conditionality measures to avoid being sanctioned. However, while I am interested to talk about these kinds of issues, I am particularly keen to allow individuals themselves to identify what aspects of claiming Universal Credit may have affected changes to their mental health.

I aim to interview 30 people who have reported changes to their mental health throughout the process of claiming; this may include those with pre-existing mental health conditions, or those who have mentioned experiencing mental health related issues since starting to claim. I am interested to hear from anybody who lives within Greater Manchester and is open to discuss this topic by drawing upon their personal experiences.

The study will explore perceived changes to mental health at various stages of claiming Universal Credit, with a specific focus on:

•  The financial impact

•  What aspects of claiming Universal Credit may be seen as helping, or being unhelpful, to sustaining a
good standard of mental health

•  Possible issues around meeting conditionality measures, including in-work

•  How people claiming Universal Credit may feel they are seen by others; both their friends and family, and
by wider society

Joe Pardoe PhD student article for GM Poverty Action

Joe Pardoe

In order to support this study, I would be very grateful to hear from anybody whose job involves providing some kind of support to people who receive Universal Credit and have experienced changes to their mental health and may be open to being interviewed to discuss their experiences. If you are able to support my research or would like to find out more, please contact me via email

 

Joe is studying for his PhD within the School of Health and Society at the University of Salford , he is associated with the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit and supporting the Salford Anti-Poverty Task Force. He gained a 1st Class honours degree in Psychology at the University of Bradford.

 

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Campaign for Better Transport

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By Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport

Imagine not having any transport. No car, no affordable train service and no buses. How do you get to work, or to college or to medical appointments? For many people on low incomes this is all too common a reality.

According to the Office of National Statistics, households spend an average of £79.70 a week on transport, making transport the biggest household expense. For people on low incomes, the cost of transport is just one more expense that must be at best juggled, or at worst sacrificed. Whilst there is no official definition of transport poverty, or any agreed figures on the number of people affected, it is a problem more and more people and organisations are being to recognise.

Transport poverty is not simply a question of being able to own a car, combinations of poor transport provision, high fares and car-based housing and other developments, all contribute to creating social isolation and poverty. Nor is this just an issue for those without cars; those with access to cars find that they are forced to use their cars more than they want to, or more than they can afford to.

Lack of transport options impacts on people’s health and wellbeing, as well as their education and employment opportunities. A recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report looked at the transport issues facing out-of-work residents in six low-income neighbourhoods, including Harpurhey in Manchester. It found that ‘transport is a significant barrier to employment for many residents living in low-income neighbourhoods’ and ‘public transport is often seen as something which constrains, rather than enables a return to work’.

Last year we published our seventh annual Buses in Crisis report. It showed local authority supported services are at crisis point, with £172 million cut from bus budgets in England since 2010/11. Local authority bus spend in the North West region dropped more than a fifth (21.54 %) in eight years, with 77 bus services altered, reduced or withdrawn in the last year alone. The loss of a bus service can have a devastating impact on both individuals and whole communities, especially those on low incomes who are already disadvantaged.

Buses connect people to jobs, health services, education establishments and shopping and leisure facilities, not to mention enabling people to visit friends and family. When a bus service disappears, so does a person’s and a community’s only link to the outside world.

That’s why Campaign for Better Transport wants to see a national investment strategy for buses, like already exists for rail and roads, to ensure buses remain part of the public transport mix.

We also need to make sure public transport remains affordable. Bus fares are rising far higher than that of any other public transport mode, and far higher than the cost of car ownership. Even rail fares, which are rising less than bus fares but still higher than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is the official inflation figure used to calculate things like benefit increases, are an increasing unmanageable burden on people’s pockets.

Darren Shirley, CEO Campaign for Better Transport

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport

One way the Government could help is to introduce a season ticket for part-time workers. Currently a season ticket offers a discount if used to travel for five days a week. If you work part time, or on a zero hours contract, or work part of the week from home because you have caring responsibilities, you must either choose to buy a season ticket and lose money on the days you don’t travel, or buy more expensive individual single or return tickets. We want to see more flexible ticket options which reflect modern working practices and don’t disadvantage people commuting less than five days a week.

Even people who do need to commute five days a week can find the cost of an annual season ticket too much to pay out in one go, meaning they are unable to take advantage of the discount offered by buying your year’s travel up front. Some employers offer season ticket loans which allow people to borrow the money for their annual ticket and pay it back in smaller amounts from their wages over the course of the year.

So far these type of schemes generally only apply to rail season tickets, but we’d like to see this extended to cover bus tickets as well. Low income families are more dependent than others on bus travel and the cheaper fare deals which involve paying larger lump sums are often unavailable to them.

Transport poverty, like other forms of poverty, does not just impact on the individual or their immediate family; it has far reaching consequences that affect whole communities, even whole regions of the country. Ultimately there is also
a national economic impact which should, if nothing else, spur the Government on to tackle the issue.

 

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Real Change Rochdale

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New campaign to tackle homelessness launches in Rochdale Borough
by the Sanctuary Trust

Earlier this month, Sanctuary Trust launched a new campaign in Rochdale giving people the chance to donate towards a fund which buys practical items for people who are homeless – things like a deposit for a home, enrolment on a training course or new clothes for a job interview.

The campaign involves many local partners who will access the fund, and the Sanctuary Trust’s Pass It On scheme are proud to be leading it. Pass It On provides training and development opportunities for people who’ve experienced homelessness or related issues, so they know first-hand what it takes to make that ‘real change’ to our lives. With Real Change Rochdale, they are now providing the things to help others do the same.

Real change Rochdale for GM Poverty Action
Real Change is an ‘alternative giving’ model, offering members of the public who are worried about homelessness a way to give other than in the streets. By doing so their money can go further by joining with other people’s donations to buy bigger items, as well as the long-term support provided by charities and voluntary groups. That’s what has been seen from the campaign in Wigan & Leigh which started last year, as well as the long-running Big Change MCR initiative.

The aim of the fund is to help overcome the poverty gap which GMPA has persuasively demonstrated. Too often, the hard work that people who are homeless (and those supporting them) put in to change their lives falls flat for want of a small amount of money. This flexible funding pot gets this to them as quickly as possible so that no one needs be homeless or beg in the streets.

To provide these grants they need to fundraise, though! They had raised nearly £1500 before they even launched – with the help of partners such as Rochdale Sixth Form College who won our ‘Real Change Champions’ trophy for their efforts – but they will need more than that to keep going. Over the coming weeks they will be out talking to local people, businesses, faith groups, community groups and more, and if you would like to help you can:

•  Donate through the BigGive

•  Share the Campaign on your social media pages

•  Invite Real Change to your workplace, event or community group

•  Do your own fundraising for Real Change

More info is on their website. Individually, everyone can all do a bit, and together we can make a Real Change!

John Wigley, Brian Duffy, Mike O’Day & Tony McManus (Real Change Co-Chairs, Sanctuary Trust Pass It On scheme)

 

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Feeding the city

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Feeding the City: Greater Manchester

Saturday January 19th, 2019

The Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester will propose many actions for businesses seeking to benefit and improve access to good food in their local communities,so it is great timing to be able to share this opportunity.

Impact Hub are putting on a free workshop to help you develop ideas for sustainable food businesses to benefit your local community. Funding, training and advice will be available for new businesses through the Feeding the City program, and this workshop will help you to develop your ideas, ready to apply for this funding – please note that the deadline for funding applications following the workshop is Sunday January 27th, 2019.

When: 1:30pm – 5pm, Saturday January 19th 2019

Where:
 Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick Street, Manchester, M4 7HR

How to book: Places are limited, so please book for free using this link

Our city region is growing and we’re struggling to feed ourselves sustainably. We want to support you to make change! What food problems would you like to solve for your community?

Do you play with the idea of starting a social business, or already have an idea in mind?

Feeding the City is a fully funded 12 month programme that will support sustainable food start-ups across all of the UK. Successful applicants will receive bursaries, and have access to business and food expert advice and training throughout 2019. At this Idea-Generating Workshop you will be supported to develop an idea for your own social business, get to know others working in similar areas and have a chance to learn more about Feeding the City. Using concrete tools, you will be helped to think through important elements of your idea in a structured way and to identify blind spots. Furthermore, you will receive valuable feedback and also learn which criteria are important in the funding application. Even those who have no concrete or only a vague idea are welcome.

Please note, any queries about the Feeding the City program should be directed to Impact Hub, while you can find out more about the Greater Manchester workshop through the booking form.

 

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